By: Aaron Welch
This will not be a fun article for me to write. In fact, my heart hurts to even sit down and begin typing. It's because I screwed up. I mean.......I royally screwed up tonight. If I could go somewhere and hide under a rock, I would. Honestly, there was a moment tonight when I thought about packing a bag and just taking off to some hotel, rather than face my family. In the past fifteen years or so, there have not been too many moments that I've been ashamed of....but tonight was one.
If you ask anyone who knows me they will tell you that one of the greatest passions of my life is being a dad. Honestly, it's the ONE thing I've always wanted to be.....a father. I grew up idolizing my dad and the love and support I always felt from him was an anchor for me as I moved into adulthood. I believe God used my dad to instill in me a deep, fiery passion to invest in the lives of my children and, additionally, into the lives of other kids as well. To that end, I have been a teacher, a counselor, a pastor, and a coach. I love kids. I love encouraging them, investing in them, teaching them......empowering them to grow and learn and improve. But more than anything else....my heartfelt desire is to do that in the lives of my own children. I do not take fatherhood lightly. I've never been a perfect father (as if there is one) but I strive with every fiber of my being to be the best one I can be. I want to pass on the legacy from my dad into the lives of my children, and hope that they will one day do the same.
And that's why tonight was just awful for me. Without going into great detail, I will just say that I lost my temper with my son tonight and yelled at him in a way that I NEVER wanted to. I have no excuses for it. What he did wrong in no way merited the response that I gave. I humiliated him in front of his peers and other parents.....something I vowed never to do. Even as I write that, I feel nauseous and an overwhelming sense of shame. If I could go back in time for just 3 hours, I would in a heartbeat. But I can't. And so my brain just keeps repeating the scenario in my head....as if one of these times it will turn out differently and I won't turn out to be such a jerk. But every time I replay it, the ending is the same. My son in tears, me devastated for bringing him to that point, my wife embarrassed of the situation and everyone else feeling awkward around us. UGH! An ugly, competitive side of me that I thought I got rid of years ago just reared its ugly head in a way that made me want to just quit life and run away.
I did all the right things afterward, and meant each and every one. I took my son aside and confessed that I had no excuse for talking to him that way. I repented of it and asked him to please forgive me. I emphasized that it was my fault, not his. He is such a good-hearted boy and he told me it was okay and that he loved me and asked me to take him to get a smoothie, which I did. But I didn't get one.....I didn't deserve one. And the entire way home I felt like throwing up, running away, quitting life, hiding from anyone and everyone who had witnessed my sin.
When we got home, I didn't feel any better. If anything, I felt worse and ran quickly to the shower to hide. I don't know why we think we can hide from our shame....it follows us wherever we go. I tried to escape under the hot stream of water, hoping that my wife and son would forget about me and allow me to slip silently to bed. Once again, my goal was to hide in the dark of the bedroom and under the covers. But I have a good wife and she came to tell me dinner was ready and they were waiting for me to come eat. And that's when I lost it. Her gesture of love towards me when I felt more unlovable than ever overwhelmed me. I began to sob, hiding my face from her and ranting on and on about how humiliated and ashamed I felt. Through heaves of emotion I told her I couldn't go out to the living room and face her or my son....could not even eat with them. I told her how much I didn't deserve to eat and that I had no idea how to recover from what had happened. I honestly didn't know how to show my face. In spite of her repeated requests for me to come eat, including telling me that my son was waiting for me, I begged her to leave and to tell him to go ahead and eat. She told me she really wanted me to come out with them, but finally she left. And I continued crying under a stream of hot water, not knowing how to ever show my face.
And then I saw him. My little boy.....standing outside the shower silently. I asked him if he had eaten and he said no. I knew he was starving and told him to go ahead and eat. He said, "that's okay" and stayed right there beside me. Now I felt even worse and told him that I was okay and that I wanted him to go eat because I knew he was really hungry from working hard at practice. He said he was okay and that he didn't want to eat without me. I repeated that I was okay; that he should go eat and I would be out in a bit. But he stayed and said, "daddy, you don't have to feel bad about what happened tonight. I love you. Won't you come eat with me?"
What could I say? His love wouldn't let me alone. His grace was relentless. In fact, just this very minute (while I am writing this article) he just came over and asked me if he could give me a hug.....and he did. It was a long, heartfelt hug from a little boy that doesn't hug often. He pursued me......while I was hiding in the shower.....while I was hiding behind this laptop. I didn't deserve his grace, or his hug.....but he offered them anyway and I'm thankful he did.
And then it hit me. God had just used my little boy to teach me about His grace. I can't tell you how many times I have royally screwed up spiritually. Repeatedly, I have let God down and sinned against Him. In my worst moments, I have been the biggest jerk (spiritually speaking) that you could ever imagine. And, afterwards, I have tried to hide. Just like Adam and Eve in the Garden, I have tried to slink off into the forest and avoid God when He came calling. But His grace is relentless. For years, I hid from God; rebelling against the responsibility that comes with holiness and running from His call. And in my shame I also fled from His presence. But He pursued me. At every turn, I knew He was right there with me.....in the midst of my shame and humiliation, He was standing at the door knocking. I didn't deserve it. I told Him to go away; that I didn't deserve His love or presence but He wouldn't leave. I would often urge Him to go help other people; others who were more deserving of His attention. He would just smile and say, "that's okay" and stay there waiting.
Eventually I realized that He wasn't pursuing me because I deserved it, but because He simply loved me too much to let me go. He was relentless with His grace because His love for me had nothing to do with what I had done....it had everything to do with what HE had done. It had everything to do with how much He valued me in spite of my idiotic moments.
Tonight, I was reminded of relentless grace. It came to me in the image of a little boy, stubbornly standing next to a shower until his jerk of a dad responded to his call to dinner. But it caused me to remember another act of stubborn love.......of another Son.......who came to this earth and died for me.......in spite of my sin. Of another Son....who relentlessly pursued me (and you) with His love....not because of what I have done, or what you have done....but because of what HE has done.
You know, my son's name is Joshua. That is ironic because, as I understand it, the name "Joshua" in the Hebrew is similar to the name "Jesus" in the Greek. Ironic because tonight, in my Joshua......I saw a picture of Jesus.
So thank you Joshua. Thank you for reminding me that God's love for us is not about our worst moments........it's all about what we mean to Him. Relentless grace.......not what we deserve......but what we get anyway. Amazing.